Boy oh boy, the Vita is certainly having a strong showing at this yearâ€™s Gamescom, isnâ€™t it? Mind you, with how itâ€™s been performing, Sony would probably be encouraged to pull the plug already if the latest series of announcements were anything less than stellar.
But stellar they were â€” or at least impressive, you have to admit. Even though itâ€™s uncertain how many more people will be convinced to buy a Vita, the newly strengthened array of upcoming titles shows determination and courage. And probably a lot of money being spent by Sony to convince major developers to make major Vita versions of their major franchises.
Enter Assassinâ€™s Creed III: Liberation. Described by the devs at Ubisoft as the first â€˜properâ€™ mobile AC experience, it looks and plays almost exactly like its console brethren. And hey, thatâ€™s quite exciting enough in its own right. Impressively, though, there are a few other tricks and additions that could potentially set Liberation apart.
First, the setup: taking place largely alongside the events of the main AC III, Liberation is set (at least partially) in 18th Century New Orleans. The timeline covers the end of the French/Indian war and a good chunk of the American Revolution, and stars â€” for the first time â€” a female lead. Her name is Aveline, a french/African aristocrat who is recruited by the Assassins to â€” what else? â€” fight those nefarious Templars.
I was shown through a fairly typical AC level, which tasked Aveline with getting past some guards into a compound, assassinating a target, and fleeing again. This was accomplished with a high level of bloodshed and acrobatics, as per usual. So far, so good, although I was worried that this game would bring nothing new to the table.
And then a new concept was explained: costumes. Aveline could, if desired, enter particular booths in the city and come out dressed as either an Assassin, an aristocrat in a puffy dress, or a servant in tattered clothing. Finally, the series could turn its hand to the idea that assassinâ€™s should be, you know, sneaky and stuff.
The same level was run through again, only this time as an aristocrat. When dressed up like this, Aveline canâ€™t climb or sprint â€” these not being typical activities for a woman of standing. New tools compensate for this: Aveline can, in this mode, seduce guards, getting them to follow her around with a love heart above their heads. All the better to viciously murder them in a secluded alleyway.
Guards tailing Aveline also lend her an air of respectability, throwing other guards off her trail, which is how she got out once the target had been killed.
And her parasol, meanwhile, is actually a silent gun. For reasons I wasnâ€™t entirely clear on, no one ever suspects that the bullet that just killed a guard came from anywhere near her. Oh well. In any case, the weapon takes ages to reload, but itâ€™s the shot that no one expects.
The servant, I think, is the most realistic of the lot. Here, Aveline is invisible in plain sight, because who takes notice of someone performing menial tasks? And thatâ€™s precisely how the third playthrough played out: Aveline got past the guards at the front door by carrying in a crate. She then scoped out the fortified area while sweeping alongside other servants. And finally, she can cause distractions by inciting fellow poor people to revolt against the guards. Controllable class warfare, sort of!
Thereâ€™s an assortment of Vita-specific controls and additions, but itâ€™s this multi-role feature that has me most excited. It might be able to breathe new life into the franchise, and itâ€™s certainly good for players who want to choose how they go about performing a mission.
The game will come out alongside AC III later this year, and will tie into the console game in various ways, most of them still unannounced. The jury is obviously still out on just how good the story is in Liberation, but itâ€™s obvious that the gameplay, at least, is very solid, and thatâ€™s a good start.
The Good: New gameplay, not just a new platform
The Bad: The risk that touch features may prove gimmicky
The Ugly: A flying machete to the throat: owie!